Living in a country (UK) that has banned cell phones (we call them mobile phones) and as a newish driver, I can say that mobile phones should be banned while driving, to an extent. When a person is driving a car there is so many pieces of information that your brain is processing: speed of your vehicle, speed of surrounding vehicles, hazard perception, road conditions, speed limits, advance warnings, steering, taking the correct route and gear changes. Now, most people may have other things on their mind, as we are not robots programmed to do one task. Usually you are thinking what are you going to do today and other random thoughts.
Now if we add a mobile phone call into the equation, firstly, if you are calling someone you need to either type in the number, look up in your phone book or speed dial. Now you may think that speed dial is pretty quick, you may take your eyes of the road for lets say a couple of seconds. Well in that time the situation could change dramatically. Now I could list a bunch of scenarios, but there are literally so many. Evidence of a second of unawareness has been demonstrated in a recent case over here in the UK when a women sneezed and did not notice a pedestrian crossing the road and the pedestrian got hit and died as a result. Dialing someone takes much longer than a sneeze especially with the fiddly controls on some phones.
Now something that makes me doubt the evolutionary theory that Charles Darwin hypothesised is that some people text (send SMS messages) whilst driving. SMS requires full or near full concentration as the button presses between unlocking your phone, opening the menu, selecting SMS, selecting compose SMS, writing your message with no spelling mistakes, selecting recipient and sending is quite a lot. This is no longer a momentary loss of concentration on the road and your surroundings but a significant loss. Here in the UK for a viral marketing campaign they wrapped lamp posts and obstacles on the streets in foam to prevent injury when texting whilst walking. Now this may have been a joke but the message is still there, you can’t text and walk let alone drive! I believe if only one thing relating to mobile phones needs to banned it is texting. If I found out that if even 1% of drivers in the UK texted and drove I would be reluctant to leave my house by car, bus or on foot.
Another issue that needs to be taken into account is that when you have a phone call you may become concentrated so much on the conversation you don’t process something going on the road lets say the car in front of you may have suddenly stopped. Now you know like I know that you can get so engrossed on the phone that you may not realise what is going on around you. Evidence for this is the loud man on his phone on the bus/train/subway. Now you may be thinking that I am now saying that any form of conversation in the car should be banned. I am almost certainly not saying that but you definitly should not have emotional calls over the phone and should avoid it with passengers in the car.
Now, this article may sound very anti-mobile phone whilst driving. Well, I understand how useful the mobile phone is. So I feel there should be a compromise on a full out ban. This is the policy in the UK. You can only use a mobile phone in conjunction with a hands-free device/headset and the phone must not be handled whilst driving. This means that if you want to call someone the phone must be in a fixed holder and you dial the phone whilst in the holder (still a bit dangerous, the best place to dial someone would be in a queue of traffic) and all sound is routed through a second device e.g. a hands free kit, your stereo or a bluetooth head set. This is a good idea as it means to receive a call it means pressing one large button which could be put on the steering wheel. Also, you can talk whilst keeping both hands on the wheel. This is the policy I feel should be adopted universally as handsfree kits are not all that expensive anymore an this would dramatically reduce accidents.
However, a ban will almost certainly not remove all danger as even today about 3 years after the ban was introduced I still see people driving whilst on their phone. The only good thing is that if they get caught they can get 3 points on their license and a an on the spot fine (for your information if you are a new driver here (2 years since you passed) getting 6 points means your license in revoked, if you are not a new driver getting 12 points within 3 years leads to getting your license revoked).Somethingthat I was told by mydrivinginstructor and still believe is that 99.9% of accidents are down to driver error.